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before, when the former had been attacked by a serious illness, Sydney wrote to him, "Dear Bobus, pray take care of yourself. We shall both be a brown infragrant powder in thirty or forty years. Let us contrive to last out for the same, or nearly the same time. Weary will the latter half of my pilgrimage be, if you leave me in the lurch."*
Robert was a man of high honour and integrity. Those who knew him intimately spoke in strong terms of his wit and powers of mind. Moore tells us, in his Diary, of his agreeable qualities, and of his being ranked, in his best time, by some people, superior to Sydney. The remark is not unusual in such cases. Friendship readily exaggerates a question of capacity; but the execution must decide. As the ability to succeed with the public in exhibitions of mental power generally brings the desire along with it, it may, in most instances be taken for granted-certainly with the healthiest of developments-that all is claimed from the world which can be enforced. There is sometimes, perhaps, in imputing these extraordinary merits to the less-known brothers of eminent authors a compensation to self-love for the honours which are grudgingly paid to acknowledged attainments.
The testimonies, however, to the intellectual strength and charm of polished conversation of Robert Smith are not to be discredited. Dr. Parr bestowed upon him, while both were living, a Latin inscription, in his famous lapidary style, written in the presentation copy of a book. He commended his fertile and skilful Latinity; his strong, manly, vehement mode of pleading, free from captiousness or cunning, and, when the occasion demanded, even magnificent and splendid; his integrity and humanity in the regulation of life; his greatness of mind in public affairs. Sir James Mackintosh
* Lady Holland's Memoir, p. 361.
+ Diary, March 13, 1833.
The inscription is given in the Gentleman's Magazine for April, 1845, p. 441. Dr. Parr, in the enumeration of college worthies, in a note to his Spital Sermon, pays this compliment to Robert Smith, τῇ ἀκριβείᾳ, καὶ δεινοτήτι, και μεγαλοπρεπείῃ εὐδοκιμοῦντος.-(Parr's Works, ii. 543.)
bears witness, in his Diary, to the eclat of his legal career in India, and to his social qualities. "His fame," he records, "among the natives is greater than that of any pundit since the days of Menu;" and again: "I hear from Bobus; always merry and always kind. Long live Bobus!" The sincere strength of expression of his conversation was held in esteem. "Bobus's language," said Canning, "is the essence of English." His old friend, Lord Carlisle, remarks, in a careful memorial in the Gentleman's Magazine: "There was much in him of the sturdy Saxon, combined with the refined and thoroughly finished scholar. No one was ever so clear of all frippery, and the only thing for which he probably felt no toleration, was a prig."* Rogers, the poet and fastidious critic of society, pronounced Sir James Mackintosh, Malthus, and Bobus Smith, the three acutest men with whom he was ever acquainted. The sound mind was enclosed in a fair body, as we learn from a pleasant anecdote related by Lady Holland. "When Talleyrand," she writes, "was an emigrant in England, he was on very intimate terms with Robert Smith. The conversation turned on the beauty often transmitted from parents to their children. My uncle, who was singularly handsome (indeed, I think I have seldom seen a finer specimen of manly beauty, or a countenance more expressive of the high moral qualities he possessed), perhaps, with a little youthful vanity, spoke of the great beauty of his mother, on which Talleyrand, with a shrug and a sly disparaging look at his fine face, as if he saw nothing to admire, exclaimed, 'Ah, mon ami, c'était donc apparemment monsieur votre père qui n'était pas bien.""
The younger brothers of Sydney were Cecil and Courtenay. The former was educated with Robert at Eton, the latter with Sydney at Winchester. Both were fitted out for India. Courtenay gained distinction there in the Judiciary as Supreme Judge of the Adawlut Court at Calcutta. He was also a good oriental
*Obituary, Gentleman's Magazine, April, 1845.
† Dyce's Recollections of the Table Talk of Samuel Rogers, p. 194.
scholar. Having accumulated a large fortune, he returned to England late in life and died suddenly in London, in 1843, at the age of sixty-nine.
Maria, the only sister lived unmarried. She died in 1816 at her father's residence at Bath. Delicate in constitution, ill health did not obscure the good temper and amiability of her disposition. Her brother Sydney spoke of her as one whom he would have cultivated as a friend, if nature had not given her to him as a relative.
Robert Smith, the father, lived to an advanced age. His son Sydney, visited him, at his residence at Bishop's Lydiard in Somersetshire, in 1821. A letter to Jeffrey has this picture of the old man:-"I have travelled all across the country with my family, to see my father, now eighty-two years of age. I wish, at such an age, you, and all like you, may have as much enjoyment of life; more, you can hardly have at any age. My father is one of the very few people I have ever seen improved by age. He is become careless, indulgent, and anacreontic."
The mother of Sydney Smith died many years earlier at the beginning of the century. In feeble health, she devoted herself, in the absence of her husband, to the care of her children; wrote letters to her sons at Winchester which the school-boys "gathered round to hear read aloud;" lived to see Robert and Sydney married, and left to her descendants a pathetic memory of her grace, and virtues.
The boyhood of Sydney Smith was passed at school at Southampton and Winchester. At the celebrated foundation of William of Wykeham he acquired a good classical education and became the leader of the school, entitling himself by his position to a scholarship and afterward a fellowship at New College, Oxford. But though he was thus indebted to Winchester for an early and important move in life, his impression of the habits and conduct of the place fastened upon him a permanent dislike to that boasted institution of learning and manliness, the English public school.
Years after, in an article in the Edinburgh Review, he wrote against the cruel and oppressive system of fagging pursued in such places; the false notion of hardening youth by exposing it to privations which were positive evils, under plea of inuring to hardships which there was little probability of meeting in after-life; the heartless exposure to premature vice and the almost inevitable neglect of instruction, with so great a number of pupils. As captain of the school, Sydney was of course an adept in the composition of Latin verses, one of the chief benefits of which was the inexhaustible subject of ridicule it afforded to him through life. The brothers Sydney and Courtenay were such proficients at Winchester, that a round robin was sent up by the pupils to the effect that it was useless to contend for the prizes as the Smiths always gained them. Another anecdote places the young Sydney in a picturesque light. A visiter of distinction came to the school and found him reading Virgil under a tree while his schoolfellows
* Though learning and academic honours seem readily to have been acquired at these institutions by the members of the Smith family, their personal experience was by no means favourable. "Even in old age," says his daughter of her father Sydney, "I have heard him speak with horrour of the misery of the years he spent at Winchester. He suffered there many years of misery and positive starvation." Courtenay was compelled by ill usage to run away twice from the same school. At a later day Sydney's son Douglas became King's scholar at Westminster. When he was sent to the school in 1820 his father writes to a lady correspondent: "Douglas is gone to school; not with a light heart, for the first year of Westminster in College is severe-an intense system of tyranny, of which the English are very fond, and think it fits a boy for the world; but the world, bad as it is, has nothing half so bad." "The hardships and cruelties Douglas suffered as a junior boy from his master," his mother tells us, "were such as at one time very nearly to compel us to remove him from the school. He was taken home for a short period, to recover from his bruises and restore his eye. His first act, on becoming captain himself, was to endeavour to ameliorate the condition of the juniors, and to obtain additional comforts for them from the head master."
Rogers tells us in illustration of the system (Dyce's Table Talk) that "when Lord Holland was a school-boy, he was forced, as a fag, to toast bread with his fingers for the breakfast of another boy. Lord H.'s mother sent him a toasting-fork. His fagger broke it over his head, and still compelled him to prepare the toast in the old way. In consequence of this his fingers suffered so much that they always retained a withered appearance."
were at play. He took the book from the boy's hand, patted his head, uttered the words: "Clever boy! clever boy! that is the way to conquer the world," and clinched the encouraging aphorism with the gift of a shilling. The encomium and prophecy are said to have produced a strong impression on the youthful scholar.*
A brief interval was passed by Sydney between Winchester and Oxford. He was for six months in a boarding-school in France, at Mont Villiers in Normandy, where he acquired a familiar knowledge of the language, which he ever afterward retained, and saw something of the troubled scenes of the French Revolution. Plain Sydney, for obvious prudential reasons, became "Le Citoyen Smit" affiliated member of the Club of Jacobins of Mont Villiers. At New College, Oxford, his career, of which little has been told the public, was one of industry and its rewards. He was safe, in his constitutional temperance and sense of independence, from the usual temptations to dissipation and expense. He received his degree of Bachelor of Arts, Oct. 10, 1792, and that of Master of Arts exactly four years later. He secured his fellowship at the earliest moment, with its perquisite of a hundred pounds a year, out of which he managed to support himself and magnanimously pay a debt of thirty pounds which his brother Courtenay had contracted at Westminster school.
The world was now before Sydney for the choice of a profession. His father at one time meditated sending him in the track of his brothers to the East, in the mercantile line as supercargo to China; the youth himself naturally thought of carrying his powers of mind, well suited to the profession, to the bar; his father settled the matter by choosing for him the church. Sydney, who was a practical optimist, acquiesced and was installed in 1794 as a humble curate in the parish of Netheravon near Amesbury in the middle of Salisbury Plain. His parochial domain was limited to a few cottagers and farmers, relieved by the Sunday dinner with the parish squire, Mr. Hicks Beach, who fortunately apprehended Lady Holland's Memoir, p. 19.